Red Eye (UK - DVD R2)
A belated look at Wes Craven's thriller with Rachel McAdams & Cillian Murphy
Lisa Reisert (McAdams) is a warm, friendly hotel manager who has just left her grandmothers funeral and is on her way home by plane, only to be delayed by the severe weather above. Several irate customers later and she encounters fellow passenger Jackson Rippner (Murphy), who offers to buy Lisa a drink to calm her nerves. She thinks he’s a nice enough guy, and is later shocked to discover that Jackson is seated next to her on the plane. A strange coincidence she thinks, until Jackson reveals the truth as to why exactly he is here: he is here because of her, and if she doesn’t follow his every word, she and her father (Brian Cox) will face the consequences. Trapped next to Jackson thousands of miles in the clouds, Lisa must try to outwit Jackson before the plane touches back down in Miami.
Since Scream 2, Wes Craven has admittedly by his own standards been in a slump. Scream 3, while still a worthy addition to the trilogy, tried to be too clever for its own good; Music of the Heart before that was a woeful attempt by Craven to do a drama, which was both a box-office and critical flop; and Cursed was quite simply that, a mismatched mess of a film, plagued with production difficulties from day one, and only made it to the screen because of Craven’s willingness to stick with what he had started. Thankfully with this effort, Craven bounces back triumphantly, with his relentlessly compelling direction that made Nightmare of Elm Street and the first two Scream movies so memorable. His use of close-angles and swooping bird’s eye like shots strike just the right tone, adding to the intensity and claustrophobic feeling of the passengers, before allowing himself some room to breath with some fast-paced camera work as the action retouches back down in Miami.
Craven is also shrewd in his casting, using actors rather than stars in order to pull off both the intense and the human elements of the story to make the premise believable. It would have been very easy for him to cast two A-listers than the lesser known Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy, both of whom where cast before they hit it big. But his decision, while risky, has paid off immensely. I’ve taken quite a shine to both of these actors recently, though in very different ways of course.
In her first lead role after her excellent turns in Mean Girls, The Notebook and Wedding Crashers, McAdams exudes confidence as the resourceful Lisa; sexy and intelligent in equal measure. Not once does she trip up on the usual damsel in distress role, here proving more than a match for Murphy’s bad guy in every way. Murphy meanwhile yet again proves his talent not only as a villain, but also as substantial rising star. After his scene-stealing performance as the menacing Scarecrow in the truly magnificent Batman Begins, he once more shows his immense talent as the equally menacing Rippner. Sincere and handsome one minute, severe and twisted the next, Murphy perfectly embodies the bad guy role, and is a league above the usual substandard villain that this film could so easily have been lumbered with.
Accolades must be given to first-time screenwriter Carl Ellingsworth, who gives the film its ever-pumping pulse. His script always keeps the audience on tender hooks, twisting and turning all the time, as well as making the interactions between the two protagonists both interesting and intelligent. His script of course also has a subtle dig at Bush and the war on terrorism post 9/11, but never lets any views overwhelm the story. The only negative aspect of the story is it’s ending, which seems very out of place with the good work done before, and is frankly rushed into its conclusion, taking minimal amount of time for tie up the story’s ending.
Presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, Red Eye's video transfer is rather disappointing for a brand new DVD release. Throughout the film, particularly when we are inside the plane, the picture has a hazy feel to it, looking murky and dull rather than sharp and clear. It lacks the usual clarity you would expect with a blockbuster release, with colours looking saturated and bleak with hints of disfigurement, with blacks and browns worst affected, as well as hints of edge enhancement throughout. It’s only when the action moves outside or into the hotel that the picture picks up, and looks crisp and bright, with colours perfectly balanced and prominent.
Thankfully, the audio transfer delivers where the video didn’t. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, DreamWorks has pulled out the stops to ensure Red Eye sounds great. Everything from the sounds of a plane taking off, changing gears and swooping majestically in the air, to the hustle and bustle of the passengers on the plane and those inside the hotel are perfectly delivered here. Also excelling is the superbly thrilling and sharp score from Marco Beltrami ( Terminator 3, Hellboy) which is brilliantly brought to life, and adds life to the thrills and chills of the film.
The main feature here is the excellent commentary from Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena and editor Stuart Levy. All three of them are a joy from beginning to end with their infectiously happy tones, adding insightful opinions and details on the film, as well as giving some interesting stories and anecdotes from the set, including Cillian Murphy coming to the set early in production with “feminine” eyebrows after he had finished the recently released Breakfast on Pluto, and why with the numerous references to the BMW situated outside Lisa’s dads house, the cast and crew weren’t given free ones by the car manufacturer. One of the best commentaries I’ve heard for quite some time, so check it out.
Two pretty good featurettes are included on the disc, which together take us through the process to get the film onto the screen. There are the usual batch of interviews from Craven, McAdams, Murphy and the rest of the cast and crew, all of whom give good insights in the films production. The second featurette, ‘A New Kind of Thriller’, puts more emphasises on Craven as a director than the film itself, and the cast and crew describe their relationships with him, as well as the director himself talking about his ‘departure’ from horror films to this thriller.
Someone at DreamWorks had the neat idea of including a gag reel on the DVD; why that is I really don’t know. It seems extremely out of place for this type of movie to have one, let alone include it on its DVD release. As you would expect it’s neither funny nor entertaining, and seems very lazy on DreamWorks part. Surely there were some deleted scenes, storyboards, even DVD-Rom features that could have been included instead of this. What a crazy world.
Also included is the trailer for the surprisingly entertaining Just Like Heaven, starring soon to be Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo.
Aided by a technically decent DVD, Red Eye is thriller that has everything: twists, thrills, turns and chills. And thanks largely to some great direction from Wes Craven, a taut script and two excellent lead turns, it's a class above your usual run-of-the-mill Hollywood thriller. Welcome back Wes.
Review by Scott Davis
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 30th January 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Filmmakers commentary, Two Making-of Featurettes, Gag Reel
Easter Egg: No
Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox, Jayma Mays, Jack Scalia
Length: 82 minutes
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